last week, the St. Louis Rams
find themselves a .500 football team (sort of; the tie with San Francisco
is really a pain when one is attempting to cook up a narrative), and still -- still! -- in contention for a playoff berth.
That's right. After thirteen games in the 2012 NFL season, the Rams are a playoff contender. I know. Hard to believe, right? The Rams did flirt with the postseason two years ago, before that meltdown against Seattle, but in general it just feels...wrong
to be talking about the Rams and playoffs. (cue Jim Mora playoffs speech
But, hey, that's where we are. Three games left, and a real shot at the postseason. So what do those last three games hold for our boys in blue and gold?
The homestretch kicks off this weekend for the Rams at home against the Minnesota Vikings
, who at 7-6 are in virtually the same boat as the Rams as far as their chances at a Wild Card spot. (Again, the tie just makes things all screwed up and difficult to track.)
It should be a winnable game, honestly. A matchup of two deeply flawed but upwardly mobile teams, with the Rams holding the home edge. Neither team is anything resembling a powerhouse, particularly on the offensive side of things; the Vikings have Christian Ponder under center, and his career isn't exactly off to the most auspicious of starts. The Rams, meanwhile, have been forced to win in the ugliest ways imaginable this season largely thanks to an offense that just can't seem to get out of its own way most of the time.
Both teams are much better on defense, and I honestly prefer that of the Rams. This is a much better defense than I think many of us were expecting to see this season, and I love the aggressiveness this unit shows most Sundays. The Rams have been playing tight games and trying to dig out of holes all season, while Minnesota tends to get ahead and then use Adrian Peterson as the keepaway equivalent of a tactical nuke in their victories.
In the end, I think the Rams have a very good shot at taking care of business this weekend at home. If they can slow Peterson down at all, as well as avoid falling into any deep holes early, the Rams should walk away with the win at home.
Unfortunately, that's where things kind of get ugly. Really ugly, in fact.
The Rams finish up the season with two games on the road, one at Tampa Bay against a mediocre but certainly not bad Buccaneer squad, and the season closer at Seattle. That's the one that really scares me, to be honest. Tampa can do some things, but ultimately I think the Rams are a slightly better team, and have the capability of winning that game even on the road.
Seattle, though...ugh. The Seahawks enjoy perhaps the single most intimidating homefield advantage in football, and it shows. They simply aren't the same team away from CenturyLink Field, away from one of the loudest environments in all of professional sports. Unfortunately, in that environment the Seahawks are a force to be reckoned with, and probably a superior team to the Rams to begin with. Actually, you can probably strike that probably; at 8-5 the Seahawks look a fair bit stronger than Jeff Fisher's bunch.
It's unfortunate, really, the way the schedule worked out for the Rams this year. To finish the slate with two games away from home, with one coming in the toughest environment in pro football, would be enough to put a damper on anyone's season. But to be facing down those two games on the road while trying to cling to a playoff spot, that's even crueler than usual.
Honestly, the way I see it working out is the Rams winning the next two, this week and then against Tampa, only to lose both the game and their chances at the postseason in Seattle. I hope I'm wrong; at the very least I would hope the team won''t have to face the Seahawks knocking them out of the playoffs again this year, but it certainly feels like that's what is going to happen. At least to me, anyway; then again, I have been known to be both pessimistic and completely clueless.
It isn't an ideal close to the season, for sure, as the Rams attempt to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2004. But then, nothing worth having has ever been easy to get, has it?
Following their dramatic, exciting, and way too close for comfort win over the